Kate Tyler Wall // Photo by Luigi Ciuffetelli
Newark author Kate Tyler Wall released her first novel, “Arboria Park,” this month. Wall’s book is based on Dover’s Rodney Village, a 1950s-era neighborhood where she spent the first 12 years of her life. The experience inspired her interests in history, exploring, the power of place—and even punk rock.
DT: Please give us a synopsis.
KTW: Stacy Holloran roams Arboria Park, learning about its agricultural history, meeting people from different backgrounds, and watching her siblings develop interracial and same-sex relationships. She also helps launch the local punk rock scene before settling as a wife and mother. As the area declines, she considers moving away with her daughter, but she decides to rally family, friends and neighbors when a massive highway project threatens Arboria Park.
How did you come up with idea?
A few years ago my mom died, and my brother and I spent a year clearing out and fixing up the house. During that time, they were in the process of boarding up and tearing down an entire street in Rodney Village to put that new road through. We had known people when we were children who had lived on that street, so it was really personal to us. I thought it would make a great story to take it over 50 years with a family that had retained ties to the neighborhood.
The cover photo is a shot of your home taken by your father. Are there other things that locals may recognize?
There are some things about it that are very much like Dover. There’s an Air Force base, there’s a farmer’s auction like Spence’s. But I didn’t want to make it specifically Dover because I wanted to bring in some things that were very fictional.
Just for my own fun, I decided to include what would have happened if my neighborhood had been a hotbed of punk rock.
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Now, where is that coming from?
It’s coming from me. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was 50, the same time I started writing. I have seen probably 150 bands a year, roughly, the last several years.
How does punk rock fit here?
The whole point with punk rock is people doing it themselves. I thought that tied in very well, because the climax in this book is you have the neighbors organizing to try to save the neighborhood—people having to work together who were not used to that. And you have a core of people in that neighborhood who are used to that because they’ve been throwing punk shows in the basements for decades.
Was writing the book cathartic?
I think so. I wanted to bring in a lot of these ideas about the history of housing—like what Rodney Village started as. It was one of those developments for returning World War II people who were starting families—people from the air base. Now, I think if you said, “Rodney Village” to most people they’d have a very, very different idea of what it is. If you look at some of the streets now, there’s been a lot of deterioration. But you’ll also see a lot of things being fixed up. It could be coming back.
What do you hope to accomplish?
Every neighborhood is unique. And people forget there is a history to it. There was a history to Rodney Village when it was a farm. It’s not like now, where developers get a hold of any piece of land they can and put a bunch of houses on it, and it’s there to make money. Rodney Village was built because there was an acute need for housing.